Hope Springs Eternal NFL Draft Preview: St. Louis Rams

#2 Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, held on April 26-28.

One year removed from a near NFC West division title the Rams blew on, big time.  The scintillating rookie campaign of Sam Bradford was followed up by a dismal second year marred with injuries.  Their former head coach, Steve Spagnuolo, never ended up being able to get his defensive line to play up to their potential (especially 2008’s second overall pick Chris Long) which was especially disconcerting since that was what his coaching specialty was.  Now the Rams have Jeff Fisher, who used to roam the sidelines for the Tennessee Titans (and Houston Oilers), wearing the headset.

The Rams’ biggest needs are basically what they have been the past few seasons – offensive line (specifically pass protection), defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver.  They have sunk many draft picks into those positions during the past four years, but unfortunately have yielded little (especially on the two lines).  The question is simple, do the Rams use yet another high draft pick on a lineman and hope that he actually pans out?  Or do the Rams try to address their wide receiving corps that wasn’t good to begin with and may be even worse if Brandon Lloyd (who is getting up there in age anyway) decides not to re-sign?

The main prospects that they would end up taking could be Matt Kalil, OT USC; Justin Blackmon, WR Ok St.; Morris Claiburne, CB LSU.  In my mind they take Kalil, they know that what they have at OT is mediocre at best and due to the amount of money they have invested in their young QB Sam Bradford they should want to keep him upright as much as possible, especially since he was so oft-injured this year.  Blackmon would be the second choice, but WR value can be had throughout the entirety of the draft, whereas usually a day-one starting caliber left tackle probably won’t be picked up past the middle first round.

Best Case Scenario

The best scenario would be the new Colts head coach falls in love with Robert Griffin III and drafts him first overall.  This gives the Rams pick even more value than it had before as everyone and their mothers would most likely be trying to trade up to second to get Andrew Luck.  Unfortunately that isn’t very realistic so the Rams will most likely stay where they are.  Although if a different team falls in love with Griffin and wants to leap frog the Browns they could do that and get some pretty nice picks in return.

Sleeper Prospects For the Rams

Trumaine Johnson, CB Montana, 2nd/3rd – The Rams need someone that can cover receivers because not a single player on their roster can (giving up 7.4 yards/attempt which ranks them 19th overall for that stat category, although no one really passed on the Rams much this year).  Johnson is a bit of a physical specimen as he not only has great size for a CB, but incredible speed as well.  While that all sounds enticing, he may slip to the late 2nd/early 3rd round due to the fact he went to an FCS school and didn’t “play against top-end competiton” and has only been playing CB for the past 4 years, as he was originally recruited as a WR.  This means he’s a bit of a project, but with that size and his good run support the Rams could definitely maneuver, up or down, in the draft to get him or he could end up being there early in the first as well.

Jared Crick, DE/DT Nebraska 3rd – Crick is relatively a forgotten man.  Last year he had some really nice buzz going for him after his junior season but elected to stay at school and finish up.  Unfortunately he was never fully healthy in 2011 and his play (when he did get on the field) suffered from it.  Crick would be a steal anywhere in the 3rd and due to his versatility could contribute as both a bigger, run stuffing DE or a smaller, pass rushing DT in the base 4-3 system.

Ryan Broyles, WR Oklahoma, Mid/late-round – Broyles caught a ton of passes (the FBS record in fact) and racked up a ton of yards during his four year career at Oklahoma.  He would have had even more if he had not torn his ACL towards the end of the season.  Coming off that injury, as well as some run-ins with the law when he was younger at Oklahoma will push him towards the later rounds.  Let’s also not forget he has some familiarity with former Oklahoma and current St. Louis QB Sam Bradford.

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